10 Questions with ... Tom Ferguson
June 17, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Part-time for 2½ years at Times-Shamrock WB/Scranton; Programmer for five months at WOWY/State College with Results Radio; then hired in November 2013 as PD/BM at Times-Shamrock WB/Scranton
1. How did you become interested in radio?
Growing up, I listened to a ton of radio. From Top 40, to Classic Rock and everything in between, I was always listening to the radio. I never really thought of radio as a career until I became interested in sports broadcasting. A visit to Penn State in the spring of my senior year of high school sold me on sports radio. I saw the student radio station, ComRadio, heard I could get on air as a freshman and host my own sports show, and I was hooked. I've loved radio since then.
2. What led you to the PD gig of Fuzz 92.1 and NEPA's ESPN Radio?
I was an intern with Times-Shamrock in the summer of 2010. I worked with the morning show on Rock 107 (WEZX) at the time, but also did a lot of promotions work with our Promotions Director Mark Hoover, while also producing our twice-a-week local sports show on our ESPN affiliate. I was hired by my PD at the time (Willobee) that fall as a part-timer, so I could come back from school on breaks and have somewhere to work and apply my trade. I worked in promotions, had an on-air shift with WEZX, and was a technical producer and our sports play-by-play broadcaster for HS football and basketball. I eventually moved on to a full-time job June of 2013 programming the Classic Hits station WOWY 97.1 in State College with Results Radio, but I got a call from my GM in October of last year about an opportunity to come back and program both Fuzz and ESPN in my hometown. At my age (25), it was hard to pass up that kind of opportunity, and the more I explored what I could be a part of, the more sense it started to make.
3. How would you describe yourself as a programmer?
I'm still really new at this, but my goal is to learn everything I can. Talk to as many people as I can and interact with as many people as possible. I want my station to sound fresh, exciting, and tight. I want our listeners to come away from our station impressed with the music we play and how we present it. The alternative fan is plugged into the music, the artist, and the lifestyle, and it's important for our station to reflect that.
4. What do you love most about working at Shamrock Communications?
It's a family owned and operated company, where the people are visible, friendly, and often easy to work with. What excites me about working here is that they were willing to take a chance on me to do something with two formats I love, one where my only experience was in college and the other where I really hadn't had much experience in. It's encouraging and humbling to me that they saw something in what I can do, and it's now up to me to prove them right.
5. What is most important to you when you championing new music for Fuzz 92.1?
I want people to know that, when we put on a song, we're not just putting it on to fill a slot or to take up space. When we add a song, it's because I'm legitimately excited about it. In just a few short years in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, WFUZ has established itself as a station that will play new music before a lot of other stations, and that's an important image I want to continue to focus on.
6. Tell us about putting together the station's Fuzz Fest on June 22nd?
I am such a music head that I cannot wait for this show. I almost have to stop myself to remember that I'm actually working that day! We looked at last year's first ever show (The Dirty Heads, Robert DeLong, The Unlikely Candidates, and Graces Downfall), went over, what went well, and what could be improved, and we were able to cultivate some great relationships to bring in an absolute monster line-up this year. I'm so excited for our headliners Cage the Elephant, a band I've always enjoyed and that has a strong following in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Couple them with the hottest band in any format (KONGOS) and a solid supporting lineup (Brick + Mortar, SKATERS, The Unlikely Candidates, Northern Faces, and Graces Downfall) and we have a great looking festival on what promises to be a great day at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain this year. We want to establish something that not just NEPA, but people all over the northeast will start talking about.
7. I love that the station has an All-Access Club. How many members and what are the benefits?
We have both an All-Access Club via e-mail and a text club, with over 10,000 combined members. We want both of these clubs to be exclusive to members, where they get contacted about tickets, giveaways and other chances to do something with us before anything else. Prime example: We stumbled upon some tickets to see Lorde a few months ago when she was in the Philly area. Instead of mounting a last-minute campaign on-air, we sent out a text to our club, asking for a reply, and within minutes had hundreds of entrants. It's that kind of response that our club is all about, and it's only through that where our listeners will get those benefits.
8. What do you like best about living in NEPA?
NEPA (Pronounced N-E-P-A, not knee-puh) is a unique place to live, in that it's a pretty big, urban population, but it's still small enough where your friends and family are never too far away. The people have always been super nice and it's a great place to grow up. I love the small-town vibe you get from being here. When I get texts, calls or random people walking up to me in bars about what I said during basketball games or on the radio, it always puts me in a good mood.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Listening to music. Suffice it to say that a day will not go by when I'm not at least listening to either my station, another alternative station, a CD in my car, an album or playlist on Spotify or maybe even a song on All Access (shameless shill for brownie points)! I went into the radio business for sports, but music has always been my livelihood and lifeblood.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
I'm actually a pretty accomplished sports broadcaster. I've won two statewide sports broadcasting awards in the last three months for my play-by-play work, and I was a Sportscasters Talent Agency of America (STAA) honorable mention All-America my senior year of college in 2011. I've appeared a handful of times on the Big Ten Network during tape-delayed broadcasts of Penn State basketball games, along with soccer and volleyball matches and I broadcast numerous Penn State sports on our student radio station, including football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, lacrosse and club hockey.
What are your hobbies?
This may be my job, but I really do love going to shows and concerts, so music is a huge hobby of mine. I love watching and playing basketball, my favorite sport, but I can usually watch anything sports-related. I do run...sometimes. Probably not as often as I should. Watching Game Of Thrones or Mad Men makes me very happy.
Last non-industry job?
From my senior year of high school till about May of 2013, I worked at American Eagle Outfitters as a sales associate. I was a mix of everything, from working the sales floor, to the cash and wrap, to the fitting rooms, to the stock room and beyond. I might be the most fashion forward programmer in the format (Probably a lie).
First record ever purchased?
The first album of anything I was ever given were two cassette tapes for my birthday: a greatest hits tape of Creedence Clearwater Revival and 18 Tracks from Bruce Springsteen. My first CD: U2's "War", which is still, to this day, one of my top five favorite albums.
The first concert I ever went to was in the summer of 2004. It was the Curiosa Festival at the [Now Susquehanna Bank Center] Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ. My uncle took me to see his favorite band (The Cure) and I found more bands that became my favorites (Interpol, the Rapture). I'll never look back on it too fondly, though, because, a few years ago, I realized the Muse was there and I didn't see them. They were apparently closing out the side-stage while we were watching Mogwai or something on the main stage. I was devastated to know I missed out on Muse in 2004.
Favorite band of all-time?
Led Zeppelin is my all-time favorite band, ever. Page, Plant, JPJ, Bonzo...doesn't get much better than that, in my eyes. Every single song they did was gold, as far as I am concerned, and some of their best stuff will always hold up as some of my favorite songs. They will always be the band that really got me passionate about music. As far as current bands go, I'd throw Muse up there. I've seen them three times in the last year, and every time is something new, exciting and just breathtaking. They're a band that can adapt and do so many different things, so well, and they get such massive sound out of their instruments.